Lots of people wonder what the purpose of their life may be, especially after they cross the 50-year milestone.
According to Dictionary.com, purpose is defined as “the reason for which something exists or is done, made or used.” That’s a good definition because you were created for a specific reason. In Ephesians 2:10, the Bible says you were created specifically to do something good at this point in history.
Your purpose will change several times over the course of your life as God opens doors and closes others to ensure you accomplish what he created you to do. Yet, some folks may need more insight or inspiration to determine a purpose for their life at this stage.
I developed an little mnemonic acrostic to help guide people toward identifying a purpose for their lives at any stage. Give this a try:
P = Pain point
What problem do you feel called to address or to help people resolve? Perhaps it is something you or someone you cared about experienced and had to overcome. A good purpose will usually work to make someone’s life better or easier.
Often, it’s related to a problem you endured yourself. Did you grow up without a parent, struggle through bankruptcy or an addiction, endure painful abuse, overcome a serious illness, serve time in prison, question your faith, or have to work your way through or around another problem?
Turn your pain into purpose by helping other people who are currently caught in that situation to give them hope and show them a path they could take to emerge stronger.
U = Useful
How can people benefit from what you do? Maybe you provide a product, such as a book, course, podcast, website, or something you build or grow.
Perhaps you need to provide a service. Some people offer coaching to help people get over a hurdle. Others walk dogs, serve as fishing guides, teach people to play a piano, provide tutoring or business training.
It is often closely related to a natural talent or skill for which you are better at doing than most other people. Either way, whether it is a service or product, a good purpose will be useful to someone else.
R = Reason
Is there a need for the product, service or resource you feel led to create or provide? There are plenty of ways to do some research to determine if others are looking for what you want to offer.
Check out Amazon to see if others have written books about the topic, or simply conduct a Google search to see if people are looking for answers to problems for which you have a solution.
One of my favorite resources is answerthepublic.com. Signing up for an account is free and you can conduct three searches a day. Just enter a few words or a common phrase and the site will tell you what people are asking questions about.
DO NOT let the existence of other resources dissuade you from providing a similar product or service. Your voice and your experiences are entirely different. For example, there are lots of books about parenting, but fewer to help single dads raise stronger daughters.
P = Providence
Were you created by God specifically to do whatever you’re thinking about doing? You may be thinking, “How can I possibly know the answer to that?”
However, I suspect you already have an inkling as to the answer. It’s been gnawing at you for years. Even back when you were a child, teenager or young adult, you probably felt tugged to go into a specific direction.
Perhaps there was a topic at school that just fascinated you. Maybe you have a natural talent in an area that seems super-easy for you to do, but which others find painfully difficult. You probably don’t need to give it much thought before it pops into your mind.
For me, that’s writing. But, as a teenager, I also wanted to be a police officer. I tried that, but didn’t like it. In hindsight, I probably would have made an outstanding author of crime novels.
There is something God put on your heart a long time ago, but others probably talked you out of doing because it wasn’t practical or they said it was “impossible” to make money doing it. Whatever you were thinking about was likely your divine purpose.
The good news is that it’s not too late for you to pursue that. In fact, it may have been God’s plan all along to bring you to this particular point to provide that special skill or knowledge.
But, if you’re still not sure, get away by yourself and ask God what you should do at this stage in your life. Then sit in silence until you get an answer. Chances are very strong you’ll encounter at least one other person soon who tells you the very same thing. That’s God talking!
O = Others focused
The one thing which separates a hobby from a purpose is the fact that a purpose is ALWAYS focused on others. It involves teaching people or somehow making their lives better. Here are some examples:
- Your hobby is to go golfing or fishing every day, but your purpose would be to teach others to fall in love with the sport.
- Your hobby is to garden, but your purpose is to teach others how to plant and tend beautiful gardens of their own. Or your purpose could be to grow spectacular plants that are given or sold to others to brighten their day.
- Your hobby is walking in the woods, but your purpose may be to orchestrate walking groups that connect people to the outdoors.
- Your hobby is to dabble in options trading in the stock market. But, you can make it a purpose by challenging yourself to donate whatever you earn that month to benefit a specific charitable organization.
It’s often very easy to turn a hobby you love into a purpose that will excite you and leave you fulfilled by helping others. If you can’t figure out a way to make your hobby a purpose, just ask. I’m always up for a brainstorming session!
S = Scriptural
Is there Biblical context for your purpose? Reading the Bible may not help you identify a specific purpose for your life, but it could very well tell you whether what you want to do is within God’s will.
For example, if you feel your purpose is to divorce your spouse and start over with someone else, there is no scriptural context backing that up. Or you may feel called to buy a home in order to live in isolation far away from other people. But, the Bible talks about why it’s not good for people to be alone and our need to be active members of a supportive community.
Yet, there are plenty of biblical references to helping people see a way out of the dilemma they face, loving others and providing for their needs.
If there is any doubt regarding what you feel called to do, then share your plans with biblically-grounded friends. They will open your eyes to the folly of your idea or provide you with the encouragement you’re seeking.
E = Enduring
Will your purpose have a lasting effect on someone or simply offer temporary encouragement? Both are important. But, when what you do can make a lasting impact on someone else, it gives your purpose much more meaning.
For example, someone going through chemotherapy may need lots of encouragement for a few weeks. However, if you can change the trajectory of a young person’s life by serving as a mentor and providing wise counsel, WOW, your legacy will outlive you for generations.
I hope these tips will help you identify a purpose for your life that addresses a pain point in ways that are useful and serves a specific reason while being in line with providence by serving others in a scriptural and enduring way.
My offer still stands. If you’d like to kick around a few ideas, I’d be happy to engage in a complimentary brainstorming session. Just reach out to me on Forward From 50 or through our Facebook community.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.